Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I'm Intrigued

Whether or not the upcoming film Cloverfield is the redefinition of the monster thriller that producer J.J. Abrams (of ABC's Lost fame) claims it will be, I simply cannot deny the sheer awesomeness of the viral marketing campaign that Paramount has unleashed upon the unsuspecting American public. The film might be a dud, it might be mindless entertainment, it might be an instant classic, but I can virtually guarantee it won't be as revolutionary as its advertising blitz.

It all started in February of 2007, when Paramount Studios greenlit the project in total secrecy. No press releases, no casting dates, nothing. They decided from the beginning of pre-production that the anticipation of the film would be as much a part of the moviegoing experience as the film itself. Then the casting began. Paramount called each candidate's agent asking if their client would like to do a movie with J.J. Abrams without a single mention of monsters.

The first trailer for the film was released in July with Paramount's Transformers. However, the trailer revealed only the name of the studio and the release date--January 18, 2008. Both this and the second trailer reveal that the entire film is seen through the handheld camera of a New Yorker trapped in the chaos.

Since the release of the second trailer on November 16th, Paramount has taken its assault to the interwebs, setting up thirteen sites to subconsciously promote the film. Seven of the sites are MySpace pages of the film's protagonists. One site is simply a collection of digital photographs, some taken during main character Rob's going-away party and others taken during the aftermath of the creature's attack. If left open for six minutes, the page will unleash a loud roar. It is (obviously) believed to be the roar of the creature causing all of the ruckus in New York. Another site chronicles the romance between two of the film's main characters. Supposedly, this site provides some clues to the plot of the film, but I haven't spent much time on it. Let me know!

The final three sites deal with a fictional Japanese oil drilling company (and its beverage subsidiary, Slusho!) called Tagruato. There is tension between Tagruato and eco-terrorist group T.I.D.O. Wave, which culminates in an incident at Tagruato's Atlantic oil rig Chuai Station. In a press release, Tagruato blames T.I.D.O. Wave for the explosion while the eco-terrorist proclaim their innocence. Paramount has released fake news bulletins (in several languages!) and posted them on YouTube. Here is the English one.

This leads us to believe that the monster is a deep-sea creature that has either been awakened or mutated by Tagruato's oil drilling. I'm sure we'll learn more in the movie. But I have no idea what Slusho! is all about.

I'm rooting hard for Cloverfield to be a smash hit because it has clearly required a shitload of effort and perhaps even some creativity to both keep the whole damn thing under wraps for eleven months and effectively promote the movie's what-the-fuck-is-that appeal. Paramount can count on at least $10 in box office revenue because I will be there on opening night.

Here's the only catch I can see: Once people see it, the revenue stream goes dry. Unless this movie is so awesome that the monster's appearance is secondary to the plot (a rarity these days), most people will spend their money just to see what Abrams has been teasing them with for the past few months. Once they've seen it, there will be no need to see it again. Sixty percent of film revenue is made in the home market these days. Paramount had better pray that Abrams made one hell of a movie or they could be staring at another Snakes on a Plane.

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